The Changing Arctic: Why We Should All Be Paying Attention

Gail Scowcroft Staff Posts

Devon Island. Image courtesy of Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Crocker Bay courtesy of Ken Burton, Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The impacts of climatic warming are most pronounced in the polar regions. Unlike the Antarctic, the Arctic is populated with indigenous peoples. These hardy folks have had a relatively stable lifestyle for hundreds of years, and now their lives are threatened by substantive changes to the environment in which they live. The drivers of these changes don’t just affect Arctic residents; they are affecting all citizens of the world, wherever they live. The Northwest Passage Project is intended to raise awareness of these climatic changes, their resulting impacts, and how science is helping to address critical environmental problems. Our participating scientists and students will experience the changing Arctic during our August 2017 expedition, during which they will make several stops along the way to visit with Inuit Native communities.

Baffin Island

Baffin Island courtesy of Vancouver Maritime Museum

I have lived in the world of ocean and climate science research and education for my entire 40-year career, first as a scientist pursuing questions related to paleoclimates and climate change and then as a university administrator and education professional directing ocean and climate change education initiatives. I wrote our National Science Foundation proposal for the Northwest Passage Project because I feel that it is critically important to engage and educate students and the public about the most pressing environmental issues facing us, and more importantly facing our children and grandchildren. We must all do what we can to ensure their healthiest possible future.

“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”
Herbert Spencer


Gail Scowcroft is the Associate Director of the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography and is the Executive Director of the Consortium for Ocean Science Exploration and Engagement (COSEE), one of the largest global networks of ocean science research and education institutions. Gail is also principal investigator (PI) and Director of the NSF-funded Northwest Passage Project. She is currently serving a four-year term on the U.S. Ocean Research Advisory Panel, the federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice and guidance to the Cabinet of the President of the U.S.